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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

My bully pulpit

Last year, Indiana became one of the few states to pass a law requiring anti-bullying programs. Schools are required to offer programs and training for students and staff on preventing and identifying bullying, which is defined as "an imbalance of power, with a pattern or repeated acts over time, or acts done with the intent to cause harm."

As this story notes, schools are now working to comply with the law:

A key component of Indiana’s new anti-bullying law required the Indiana Department of Education develop guidelines to assist school corporations and safe-school committees to establish bullying-prevention programs.

The law requires each school corporation to include the number and categories of bullying incidents in the school district's annual performance report. It requires each district train employees and volunteers to administer the district's bullying-prevention program and provide annual bullying-prevention education to students.

Each district must delineate procedures for investigating bullying behaviors in the school corporation's discipline rules, follow-up services for victim support and education for the bully. The school board is required to develop a policy that prohibits bullying.

Yes, by golly, let's make sure we "delineate those procedures." That's all very formal and scholarly, and I'm not sure it will work to combat something schools have had to cope with forever.When hasn't there been "an imbalance of power" leading to "repeated acts intended to harm"? Good teachers and administrators have usually know how to restore the balance of power by letting the bullies know there are consequences in this life.

Given how obsessive schools have become with things loke zero-tolerance, political correctness and self-esteem, we should probably be ready for the school-bully news to take a strange turn or two. So let's get acclimated with this report out North Carolina:

Grayson Bruce’s My Little Pony backpack will return, and with it may come new initiatives to prevent bullying in local schools.

Buncombe County Schools administrators met Thursday with the mother of Grayson Bruce, the 9-year-old boy who was propelled into the national spotlight this week after saying he was prevented from carrying his “My Little Pony” backpack to school because administrators told him it “triggered bullying.”…

Buncombe County Schools administrators released a joint statement Thursday, saying they would work with Bruce to make “a safety transition plan and an allowance for Grayson to bring the bookbag to school.”

This school decided to cope with bullying by identifying someone it thought would be the target of bullying and making him stop carrying the thing that would have gotten him bullied. They're accommodating the bullies, in other words, and I admit my visceral reaction was negative. Why not just give the thugs the keys to the school and tell them they're in charge?

But there's another way to look at it:

Yes, it’s wrong to bully a little boy for wearing a backpack marketed to little girls. (My five-year-old daughter loves My Little Pony, especially Rainbow Dash.) And, yes, the ban was effectively blaming the victim. But the fact of the matter is that kids of that age can be vicious, bullying and mob behavior here was quite predictable, and it’s impossible for teachers to be everywhere at once. It was just easier to tell Grayson to leave the backpack at home, removing the immediate catalyst.

Schools do this sort of thing all the time and have forever. For decades now, schools have banned clothing with potentially inflammatory messages or even banned wearing hats and other clothing in colors locally associated with various street gangs. The fact that people ought not react viciously to other people’s free expression is outweighed, especially with children, by the probability that they will.

What in the world were these parents thinking? I'd almost rather think they were being cluelessly inattentive, but I suspect they might have been using their son to make some sort of idiotic, New Age, gender-neutrality "we're all in this together" point. Nothing to get the bullies ' interest there, huh?